Updated: Mar 17
Legal pioneer Mary Bonauto works with Beth Robinson and Susan Murray to get Vermont to recognize same-sex marriages.
The State of Marriage, directed by Jeff Kaufman, is an emotional documentary detailing the story of the small town lawyers, Susan Murray and Beth Robinson, and legal pioneer Mary Bonauto’s fight for same sex marriage to be legalized in Vermont. The documentary is very informative and tells the story in an interesting and compelling way. I will admit upfront that I did shed a few tears during this film, I never thought I would cry in a documentary about a court case, but here we are.
The documentary starts off with Susan Murray helping a lesbian mother get custody of her son after a car accident. Because of her sexuailty, the mother of the child was almost denied custody of her child. This was the push-off-the-cliff, if you will, for the fight for same sex marriage. After this, Murray, along with her then intern Beth Robinson, traveled around Vermont to garner support outside of the LGBTQ+ community for same sex marriage. Kaufman did a great job explaining the motivations behind the court case and you can truly understand why they’re fighting.
The documentary details the stories of the three couples (or the plaintiffs) involved in the court case and provides an amazing insight into LGBTQ+ relationships. The stories of the three couples help normalize gay relationships and portrayed their love for each other in a way I can relate to. “She’s 58 years old and I still think she blows away any woman in any room.” It does a fantastic job displaying that same sex marriage isn’t some kind of outrageous, crazy thing. The couples love each other and just want to be legally married
After the three couples were denied marriage licenses, they took the matter to court. They claimed that the ban that prohibits same sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause in the State Consitution. “These plaintiffs wanna get married. They wanna marry each other, the same reasons many other people wanna marry each other. They love each other, they wanna make public legal living with one another.”
The cinematography isn’t amazing, but it doesn’t need to be. It was simple and direct and it was what the documentary needed. The documentary focused on telling the facts and spinning the story into an emotional rollercoaster. The music is good and fits with whatever narrative is going on on-screen and isn’t overwhelming or overshadowing what’s going on. The overall execution of the film isn’t revolutionary or outstanding, but it does its job and fits the overall genuine, raw feel of the actual story and media.
Overall, I highly recommend giving The State of Marriage a watch. It gives a history lesson along with a compelling story that helps you understand the struggles of legalizing same sex marriage. Halfway through the documentary I almost forgot that it was a documentary with how good the storytelling was; a good watch with an amazing narrative.